The lack of women in trades
There has always been a lack of women in trade industry, particularly in the electrical side of things. As career choices happen so young with apprenticeships and GCSE choices, electrical training career opportunities don’t attract girls at that age because they are simply not the target audience. Gender stereotypes are not as blue and pink as they have been and to inspire women to become part of trade as a whole there needs to be a change early on. There is no reason why these professions should be so stereotyped, there's a shortage of decent electricians and part of the reason must be that 50% of the population aren’t choosing to train in the non-traditional services. Young women need to be shown the benefits of a well-paid job and a rewarding career.
So what attracts men to the trade?
Every job has their pro’s and con’s so what makes this type of job so well received by men? Boys love their toys; men often like to tinker, tweak, problem solve, fix and work hands on. Electrical contracting often means a great variety of when and where you work as well as what you do on a day to day basis. An obvious attraction to this trade is the wage packet, electricians are well paid and depending on where you are located you could earn £40,000 PA. However none of these attractions are specific to men they are simply more specific to the stereo typical male.
Women in the trade
For many women in the trade they have used their gender as a marketing tool. This usually involves labelling men as cowboy’s and suggesting that by employing a lady you will get the job done more quickly, tidily, politely and sometimes at lower prices . This stereotyping of male electricians is not greatly received by many in the trade and rightly so. Although there are some rogue traders these stereo types definitely do not apply to all male electricians.
However despite the fact these stereo types are mainly unfounded the there is definitely a demand for female domestic electrical installers as many women do prefer to open their door to someone from the same sex.
The NICEIC’s Emma McCarthy “There is now a good business case to employ more women. Consumers sometimes prefer to hire female contractors and our research highlighted that some female homeowners admit to feeling intimidated when having to deal with a male electrician.”
Other marketing aspects for women can relate to religion, in the Muslim community, husbands prefer to have a lady in the house rather than a man.
Training together can help men and women
Interestingly, many trainers have noticed that the whole class benefits from mixed lessons. Females tend to achieve above average and when taught together in a mixed environment there is a direct improvement in males.
Andy Hay-Ellis from Trade Skills 4U says “Whether it is a natural effort to impress or prove themselves we are not sure but our instructors have noticed that classes tend to be less boisterous and test scores were higher almost every time a woman was present on the course. However even in this day and age we still find many of our classes do not contain a single woman”.
Recent figures indicate that ‘less than one in every 1,000 electrical contractors is female.’ This has plunged since 2003 when there was an average of one female electrical contractor to every 600 men. To redress this imbalance NICEIC has recently launched its ‘Job for the girls’ campaign.
Emma McCarthy, said, “This image of our industry as an exclusive one is dangerous. If we are to plug the skills shortage gap then we can’t afford to dismiss half the working population.”
As part of the campaign, The NICEIC is working on a practical guide to help raise awareness and promote equality whilst giving its accredited members guidance. This scheme is hoping to recruit more young females into its new apprentice academy. Hopefully the future sees a gender balance in the more male dominated trades, as gender certainly doesn’t define capability.